WE NEED DEVELOPMENTAL CHANGES
Cameroon like some other African countries gained independence in 1960 but Cameroon still has much to reckon with as far as developmental progress is concern. Even some of the relics left behind by our colonial masters can be seen today usually in a pathetic dilapidated state.
Unlike other countries like our neighbours Nigeria who has had fourteen leaders, Cameroon has had just two Presidents to rule since its independence. Ahmadou Ahidjo became a dominant figure in independence, unified Cameroon. He was elected five times from 1960 and 1980, and he maintained political and economic stability in Cameroon for twenty-two years. The price of stability, however, was government censorship of newspapers and curtailment of free speech.
In November 1982, Ahijo resigned in the middle of his fifth presidential term and chose his Prime Minister Paul Biya to succeed him. After completing his predecessor’s term Mr Biya was elected to a full term as President in January 1984, and he decided to change the country’s name from the United Republic of Cameroon to the Republic of Cameroon. He equally changed from Ahijo’s policies and installed several new cabinets. Before we used to study the names of the different Ministers in primary schools but today due to the constant cabinet reshuffle, it is no longer worth while.
Ahijo’s regime was greatly criticised by English- Speaking Cameroonians who due to their minority status felt they were disadvantage within the United States and suffered from marginalisation, oppression and suppression from La Republic Du Cameroon. Many hoped for a change with President Biya coming in to the scene with his slogan of rigour and moralization and as a Christian Southerner after being ruled by a Northerner and Muslim.
Opposition is still strong till date, particularly from The Southern Cameroon National Council (SCNC) a secessionist organization that seeks to restore Anglophones sovereignty and independence. It is a non-violent organisation, and its motto is "The force of argument, not the argument of force.
As they say, it is better to compare two things. Some hold President Ahijo was eating using a fork, so some remnants can be enjoyed by citizens down there, but now President Paul Biya uses a spoon to eat, so the people have no access to remnants, thus making livelihood more difficult.
Apparently, some Veterans say, life in those days in Cameroon was blooming and glossy. Today, the economic crisis is having a great impact on the society. Formally, those who attended Public Professional schools and graduated were offered jobs. Students who excelled in general exams like the Advance Level, General Certificate Exam (GCE A’Ls) were granted scholarships to study abroad, all these positive actions are no longer applicable.
Cameroon had ten provinces, the President once again on November 12, 2008 decided to make a change by signing a Presidential decree creating ten regions from the ten provinces. What is the essence? This has again stirred many negative comments. Some think it is the most stupid decision he has ever made and attribute it to the fact that the President is either going nuts, confuse or age is playing a trick on him.
Some question the decision of regions if there are still ten same like the provinces, suggesting it would have been a better idea to combine the three Northern Provinces and call it the Northern region, the South, East and Center Provinces as South- East Region, and the Littoral, West and South West Provinces as West, concluding he ought to be ashamed for using a new name ‘Region’ for his segregation policies rendering the country helpless.
The change of statues should come with development. But how can we attain development when there are constant reports of Directors and Ministers being accused and charged for embezzling gross sums of money from the national coffers.
From my point of view, there are inherent aspects that has hindered or deprived developmental growth and changes in Cameroon. Economically we have a regressive taxing system. As a result of high taxes levied, many economic activities or plans had been foiled thus ignoring the fact that setting up a business requires physical resources, and it also create employment opportunities, therefore the business operator needs to be given some time to kick off before the government can start taxing. If this can be adhered to, it would pave the way for economic stability and growth.
Even the small and medium size entrepreneurships are not encouraged because of numerous tax demands from different services and most of all the different tax collectors have fraudulent means to extort money from them, made possible due to the fact that there is no specific or adequately defined taxing system.
Bribery and corruption is the chief aspect. Funds budgeted or allocated for certain projects are either not carried out or it is misappropriated, because part of the money has been siphoned and the difference is not enough to carryout the project accurately. Civil Servants make demands to render their services.
Usually there is always a call for tender when there is a contract to be carried out. As I have noted, most Directors or Service Heads own their own businesses hence, many other business concerns would apply and bribe their way through just to win the contract at the end, the Director would accord the contract to his personal business enterprise usually registered in a family member’s name or to someone he has negotiated to have a considerable amount as the Directors own cut of the deal.
Nepotism is also an issue. When people are appointed to high positions, they turn to employ mostly their family members, tribesmen or close friends, even if they are not qualified for the post. Under Ahijo’s reign it is observed he maintained control through shrewd political appointments by appointing people from many areas of the country and from many different ethnic groups to serve as governmental officials, even political opponents were given prestigious jobs but then, this system of political job placement also created a large, inefficient, and often corrupt bureaucracy.
Paul Biya on his part appoints mostly Officials who are loyal to him to important government post, especially after the April 1984 attempt to overthrow Biya’s government by members of the Presidential guard mostly disgruntled Northerners. In 1990 he introduced a policy of legalized new political parties.
Amidst all these discrepancies, the talkative and social watchdogs known as the press and media are hushed and persecuted, for those who try to uphold their media law and ethics to provide substantial and objective reports and in effect expose these malpractices. This has spurred Human Rights abuses and violations.
The peak of oppositions provoked a nation wide riot. Prof. Calson Anyangwe, President of British Cameroon on exile referred to the last nationwide riot as the ‘February 2008 Massacre of Anglophones in Cameroon by the Biya regime’. Even so, The International Media Monitoring groups have accused the government of Cameroon of censoring the media and beating and intimidating journalist as well as confiscating their equipments.
A report by Harry Yemti Ndienla on MyNews.in of October 11, 2008 stated that “One unmistaken way in which you know how concern a leader is about the welfare of his people is how he reacts to a national emergency. Even on relatively minor but important matters good leaders do have the good taste of solidarity with their people. But President Biya seems far from this. He has been faulted by many Cameroonians for having lost interest in his job and also for not willing to do it well”.
In my candid opinion, if all these complexity and variances are not addressed, whether we change from Province to Region or States, the socio-economic crisis and situation we face shall worsen as the years go by. Salaries are low while some experience payments delay. Unemployment is alarming, while the prices of basic commodities increase by the day. From 1982 till date, how long are we to wait or expect changes? With the President now getting frail considering his age, what new developmental strategies, policies or transformation can he achieve now that he had not derived for all these years? Why can’t some of our leaders strive to rule and bring about progress and developmental growth in their honour, will that not be awesome?